“Darf ich hier sitzen?” (May I sit here?), I ask a young couple chilling on a wooden bench. They pay no attention to me. With a couple of €2 beers in their hands, they keep staring at the city glowing in the dark below their feet. I don’t blame them: even the unattractive Berlin looks stunning from above. In most other European cities, a panoramic rooftop bar with a similar view would be extremely expensive and pretentious. Not in Berlin.
I sit down, and look around. Everyone seems to be wearing very eccentric clothes: “Am I the only one here who’s not a punk, a hipster or an artist?”, I wonder. As a resident of the so-called “world’s fashion capital”, I’m a bit shocked: in Milan you have to dress well even to just take the trash out. Clubs and bars there take their dress codes in an exaggeratedly serious way: if you’re wearing shorts, you’re most definitely not getting in; no blazer or, at the very least, a shirt? sorry, but you stay out; even unusual color combinations are unacceptable there. The Milanese want to be seen as the best-dressed people in the world, and, at times, this obsession can become very stressful. Berlin is the exact opposite: the most important rule here is to be yourself, everything is equally as acceptable.
The unconventional atmosphere of this city truly invites you to develop your own personal style. This might be a consequence of its historical past: since the construction of the Berlin Wall, symbol of the egalitarian utopia of the East, this city (first only its Western half, now the whole metropolis) has attracted a plethora of creative individualists who refuse to follow any particular trend. Before coming here, I was told that most bars and clubs have a very strict all-black dress code. But here at the Klunkerkranich rooftop bar I’m wearing a much more colourful outfit: pink t-shirt, blue pants, red shoes. And once again, Berlin has accepted me anyway.
I drink my beer and enjoy the beautiful view in front of me. From the Klunkerkranich I can see the elegant 5-storey buildings in the former West Berlin, the gray and soulless buildings of East Berlin, the modern skyscrapers and the lush parks everywhere in between. Berlin is a city of surprising clashes that give it a certain dynamism and an addictive atmosphere which is lacking in most other European cities. In contrast to its southern sister, Munich, which I have visited before, Berlin is gritty, cheap, multicultural and oh-so-sexy. It doesn’t strike you for its beauty, but it openly accepts you and invites you to stay. Had I not come, I would have never discovered this. Now that I’m here, I never want to leave.